I have the fortunate opportunity to learn more about these west Wilmette gems from the architect who designed them. (Thank you FBook and this very small world we live in.) Mort Balaban, the architect, reached out to me via his daughter on Facebook. Here is what they said:
Cheryl Balaban Sarah Rothschild, i'm sitting with my dad right now..."Hollywood builders was headed by Jack Netchin, the builder, Morton S. Balaban was the architect of most of the homes in west wilmette. Besides them, there was Bill Kagan (Brookside dr.), and Hoffman Builders. Margolin was a lesser player, and Spear Gaston Builders built the colonial style townhomes along skokie blvd. (also designed by Mort Balaban).
The models that I designed for Hollywood were called the Hollywood Special, Skylark, Devon, Eldorado, and the flipped iterations were those names backwards, i.e. the Noved (lol). The "groovy slanted roof" model was the first venture into what I thought as contemporary in 1960; that was the Hollywood Special. All of the bilevels were set back 20 feet to accommodate the garage option.
As payment, i bought a lot at 2927 Greenleaf and built my own first home, a wildly contemporary home for the times that presaged my evolving architectural style. Although a misguided owner repainted the entire home (including the ironspot brick) lemon chiffon pie yellow, the home still stands proudly."
Over the years, dad and i have bought back some of these homes and reimagined the interiors and added additions. The current example of our renovation process is at 3001 Washington, where we've reconfigured the first floor and added a garage and master suite, reflecting his Frank Lloyd Wright prairie influence.
A few years back, the Wilmette Historical Society curated an exhibit on single family homes in the Village, highlighting Dad's contribution.
Let us know if there's more information you'd like to know. As dad says, "I am a fountain of information!"
2/12/2015 12:10:32 pm
And I am another proud daughter of Mort's, also living in Wilmette! But not in one of his homes...although he did do an addition to it 14 years ago! Go Dad! I remember being dropped off at friends' houses over the years and my Dad always said something like, oh, that's the Eldorado, or that's the Devon. :) Always made me really proud. Still does.
Your dad is an amazing guy, just like his amazing daughters and grandkids. I am just so excited to have learned from you and your sister that he created this world I live in. The architecture of this area is really cool in my opinion. In a city that worships Wright, Sullivan and SOM, I happen to really love the nuances of suburban architecture. I am sure I'm going to have more questions for him in the future. Thank you for sharing him with the people who read my posts.
2/12/2015 01:45:08 pm
Love that your dad is still around and helping influence homes in and around the Wilmette area. I grew up first at 435 Locust, which I am positive is a Balaban home. Then we lived at 424 Brookside (a Kagen home.) I don't like what they did to 435 some years ago. MAYBE one day in the not too distant future, I can buy 435 back and bring your dad on board to bring it back to it's beautiful original state. Thanks for sharing your memories with us!
2/12/2015 04:07:17 pm
2/16/2015 02:24:59 am
We're big fans of Mort Balaban here at the Wilmette Historical Museum! He donated some of his original drawings to the museum several years ago, and they are prized parts of our collection. Please wish him well from all of us here.
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Sarah Rothschild, Realtor & Architectural History Nerd.